NZ-Pak pitch puts smile on quicks' face
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NZ-Pak pitch puts smile on quicks' face

Near constant rain for three weeks has created enormous problems for ground staff, desperate to stop Westpac Park becoming a bowlers' paradise.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2003 09:54 IST

Heavy rain has hindered wicket preparations for the first cricket Test between Pakistan and New Zealand starting here Friday, threatening a repeat of last summer's batting debacle when India toured.

Near constant rain for three weeks has created enormous problems for ground staff, desperate to stop Westpac Park becoming a complete bowlers' paradise which would be relished by Pakistan's fearsome quicks Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami and Shabbir Ahmed.

"Ten days out is when you start pitch preparation, so the rain has affected us hugely," turf manager Karl Johnson said Tuesday.

"We haven't been able to put in the work we normally would have. Obviously we want it to be a flat track. We don't want too much seam movement, especially in Hamilton where the humidity is likely to cause a lot of swing anyway."

Those issues came on top of concerns about last year's pitch for the Test against India when both sides were dismissed for under 100 in their first innings, the game lasted less than two full playing days and 36 wickets fell for 507 runs.

While batsmen rightly hold concerns, New Zealand paceman Daryl Tuffey has inspected the wicket and given it the thumbs up.

"The pitch is looking pretty good and I'm not saying that as a bowler -- it should be a good cricket wicket," he told the Dominion Post.

After recent tours to India and Pakistan, Tuffey is keen to bowl in conditions where there is encouragement for the pacemen.

"It will just be nice to get some grass about," he said.

Johnson said the weather over the next three days will decide the quality of the strip -- moisture levels were on target, but it needed sunshine to finish the job.

Frequent downpours recently meant ground staff were forced to replace the covers half a dozen times on some days, and the covers have been on so long, some of the grass surrounding the pitch is turning yellow.

Even before rain became a factor there were concerns about the pitch after a dip on a good length caused variable bounce during a provincial game less than two weeks ago.

The pitch involved was to one side of the nine-strip block, and Johnson said they could now tell the Test pitch was not affected by the ridge.

The outfield is also a worry if it continues raining.

Last year play was delayed during an entire sunny day because the outfield's drainage was so poor.

The New Zealand team assembles in Hamilton Tuesday while Pakistan complete their three-day warmup game against Auckland.

First Published: Dec 16, 2003 09:54 IST